Jefferson as Viticulturist
Thomas Jefferson had one of the most sophisticated palates in early America, and wrote about the fruits of the vine with almost the same gravity as he did the fruits of liberty. “Good wine,” Jefferson believed, was a “necessary of life”—not only to the life of the nation, as “the only antidote to the bane of whiskey,” but also to the “health and comfort” of the individual.
By 1789, when he left the famed growing regions of Europe, Jefferson had set his sights on what was to become a lifelong goal: the production of a “good wine” from a Monticello vineyard. Toward this end, Jefferson planted foxgrapes of the Virginia woods, Italian vines from Tuscan importers, and Scuppernong of North Carolina, and personally inspected European varietals. Though Monticello could never produce the wine which its owner so desired, Jefferson’s table and cellar were always supplied with a wide variety of excellent European vintages.